The NCAA voted Thursday to give the nation's five richest athletic conferences more power to govern themselves.

"Universities with big-budget athletics programs will soon have a rulebook of their own after the NCAA voted Thursday to give the nation's five richest athletic conferences more power to govern themselves.

The move lays groundwork for those schools to pay college players a few thousand dollars more a year to cover the cost of attending school and otherwise loosen restrictions on athletes. Schools could begin voting on rule changes in January.

The decision by the NCAA Division I board of directors affects the 65 schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences.

It makes official what has long been true: schools with the top teams in football and men's basketball operate on a different echelon than colleges with more modest sports programs.

Only, under the new system, the University of Alabama, with an athletic department that generated $125 million in 2011-12, would get to bestow more perks, protections and freedoms on its players than a school like North Carolina Asheville or Mississippi Valley State, which generate athletic revenues well below the $7 million-a-year salary of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement that the new system "represents a compromise on all sides that will better serve our members and, most importantly, our student-athletes."

The idea of another tier in college sports has long been unpopular among the smaller schools that comprise the majority of the NCAA's 350 Division I schools. But the so-called power conferences gave those schools a reason to get on board. Commissioners of the big conferences in recent months suggested that, without more rulemaking freedom, they would leave the division altogether, taking with them the billions in revenue they generate.

Advocates say it's only fair for schools that generate hundreds of millions from college sports to pass on some of those riches to players. . . .

Opponents say the move only deepens the have-and-have-not nature of college sports and is another step toward commercialization of college athletics. . . .

The move comes amid growing public pressure on NCAA schools to share some of their rising revenues with athletes. The five power conferences each are taking in hundreds of millions of dollars annually, largely through skyrocketing broadcast-rights deals to telecast football games. Yet athletes are prohibited by NCAA rules from profiting from their athletic skill or fame beyond their scholarships.

In several separate cases, current and former college athletes are suing the NCAA and prominent athletic conferences, seeking a portion of revenues or the end of amateurism rules that prohibit free-market compensation for athletes.

Putting in place a stipend will be among the first orders of business if the structure holds. College-sports leaders have discussed giving athletes an annual stipend of $2,000-$4,000 to cover what studies have shown is a gap between the value of a full athletic scholarship and the actual cost of attending college."

Summing Up

Here's what I say.

The NCAA still has no intention of sharing the real wealth with these so-called student athletes in the big five conferences.

And the vast majority of these so-called student athletes, won't ever make a living playing ball after their college days are over.

And many, if not most, won't even graduate or be able to get good jobs after being in college for four or more years playing ball and chasing the dream.

So why not drop the NCAA's longstanding monopolistic practices and pay these players a market based salary while they play for good old alma mater and make their coaches and institutions lots of money and provide their fans and alums with lots of good entertainment along the way?

And why not quit charging the real students that portion of their student fees which goes to support the money losing college sports programs so prevalent throughout our American institutions of higher learning, including the "Big Five" conferences.

In other words, let the free market decide and stop playing silly games.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.